By Natalie Kouba
A parking lot littered with beer cans and red Solo cups has become a familiar image at the College’s Homecoming, and the number of transports and citations reflects the out-of-control reputation that the administration will attempt to reign in this year. In sticking to the united tailgate structure, the College is also hoping to work with students to reverse this seemingly increasing trend of alcohol abuse at Homecoming.
“Drinking is the primary concern, but we are optimistic that the advance buy-in from these groups, along with the new limits on the amount of alcohol allowed into the area, will be effective,” said David Muha, vice president of Communications, Marketing and Brand Management at the College.
In the past two years, there has been a jump in the number of alcohol related incidents — from five medical transports in 2012 to eight in 2013, and from 11 underage drinking citations in 2012 to 24 last year. This year, in lieu of having one combined tailgate instead of the original separated tailgates, extra funding had been provided to support the increase in security. According Muha, there will be 55-60 professionals assisting with security, consisting of members from Campus Police, New Jersey State Police and contracted security officers from Summit Security.
“Summit’s officers will primarily be checking ID’s, monitoring checkpoints, checking bags and providing building security,”Muha said. “Our officers and those from the State Police will be handling enforcement.”
In reuniting the tailgates, campus organizations and Greek Life agreed on pulling their efforts to make a conscious effort to curb underage drinking.
“We basically just had fines in place and agreed to not have pre or post parties,” Inter-Greek Council President Robbie Nunes said.
“This year, there will also be additional sanctions for Greek organizations, including fines, if one of their members is cited for underage drinking,” Muha said. “Other student organizations will also be held accountable to Student Government.“
In addition to the increase in security, the Fraternal Information and Programming Group Guidelines will limit the amount of alcohol allowed to be brought into the tailgate. Unlike previous years where garbage bins full of beer cans were stationed across the lot, each attendee of legal drinking age will be permitted to bring in only a six pack of 12-ounce beers or a four pack of six-ounce wine drinks.
“Limiting the amount of alcohol this year according to nationally recognized guidelines should help in this respect as well,” Muha said.
Through different campaigns, higher security and added events, the College is making strides in hopes of providing a safer Homecoming tailgate this year and bring overall awareness to the issue.
Some student-led campaigns are helping to raise awareness about alcohol-related issues and guide attendees to a safer Homecoming experience. Delta Zeta sorority, for example, has championed the “I Have a Choice” campaign, voicing the dangers of drinking and driving in the week leading up to Homecoming in order to support the National Collegiate Alcohol Awareness Week.
Drew Grapstul, a senior criminology major and Campus Police intern, is heading the HERO campaign, an effort aimed to raise awareness of the dangers of intoxicated driving and urging students to designate sober drivers.
A few weeks ago, students had the opportunity to see the potential dangers of drunk driving when Rutgers alum Gabe Hurley came to speak on behalf of the HERO campaign. Hurley recounted to the College how his life changed after being struck by a drunk driver and the hazards therein.
“That changed his life dramatically, so we are trying to make everyone proactive about drinking and driving,” Grapstul said. “We just want to make people aware going into the football game and coming out of the football game sure there is going to be people drinking, tailgating the football game, but make them aware of the HERO campaign and when you leave the stadium, have a designated driver, or don’t drink and drive.”